Apparently it's planting season at Seaside Farms.
The Mount Pleasant retail and residential development is so popular that it just keeps, well, developing. They're putting up townhouses in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot (really) and trying to plant a pool and a volleyball court in a patch of long-standing green space.
That has some residents so mad that they're going to court this week — and not the volleyball one.
The problem here is that residents say they were promised this green space a decade ago, and the developer — the Beach Co. — is reneging on the deal in an effort to squeeze every last dime of profit out of its 525 acres.
The company wants to put an amenity center on the land for future residents. But the current residents balked at the loss of some walking trails, and went to the town's Board of Zoning Appeals. They lost.
Now these folks are disheartened to learn that, in their planned development, the plan keeps changing.
A popular piece of land
This all goes back to 2000, when the Beach Co. was building Marais Townhomes.
A few of the townhouses were slated to be built on property zoned for single-family homes. The company cut a deal with the town to avoid redrawing their plans.
“The Town will allow the townhomes to be constructed in the pattern currently proposed in exchange for The Beach Company designating the land across Long Grove Road from the apartments as park land or open space,” Beach Co. President John Darby wrote in an August 2000 letter.
Everybody was fine with that. But in 2009, the Beach Co. proposed building homes on the site. The residents raised a stink, the town said no. The company tried again in 2011, same results.
But obviously, this patch of land is burning a hole in their pocket. So last year the Beach Co. decided to put a pool, a volleyball court and a parking on the Long Grove Road property. Guess you need to offer something nice to get people to live in the Pig's parking lot.
Bottom line, the town said that was OK.
You see, no one had changed the zoning for P-2 after that 2000 agreement.
A matter of trust
About 100 residents filed suit against the town and the Beach Co., and they have their day in circuit court Friday.
But they've already had enough.
“The residents believe this park area was always intended to be a passive park as it was marketed, promised, and developed as such by the Beach Co. over 10 years ago,” says Catherine McGinn, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and the treasurer of Seaside Farms Single Family Home Owners Association. “We are saddened by the recent loss of this green space and the joy it brought to our community. We believe The Beach Co. should honor their commitments.”
Even if a judge decides zoning trumps written agreements, the Beach Co. could have a bigger problem here. Future residents will have to wonder if they can believe anything the developer tells them.
Even if it's in writing.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or read his blog at blog.postandcourier.com/brians-blog.